Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Charlie's Birth Story

I've been working on this for two weeks. I won't name names, but I keep getting interrupted by this adorable tiny human. I'll try to keep this as family friendly as possible, but childbirth is, well, kind of graphic. Read or don't read, but you've been warned.

I should probably start a week earlier. Longest. Week. Of. My. Life. Waiting for baby is no joke. I tried to stay distracted - Jon worked from home to help in that effort. We watched movies, went out to eat, took lots of walks, did some shopping and enjoyed our last few days as a family of two, but this mama was getting beyond impatient.

My due date of Sunday, December 13th passed without incident. It's basically the one day you know baby isn't coming. I felt like nothing was happening, but at my 40-week appointment the following day, I was very surprised to learn I was already dilated 3-4 centimeters, 80% effaced and baby was very low (0 station). I thought for sure he would be on his way soon. Over the next couple of days, I had one labor sign after another...except the most important one - actual contractions.

By the time we hit week 41 the next Sunday, I was convinced this baby was never coming (hold onto that thought, it resurfaces later). I went to church that morning angry that I was still with child. It didn't help that my day started at Starbucks with the barista exclaiming "You look ready to pop" or that someone at church said "Don't get me wrong, you look great, but you are huge." Thanks, I think? I told our pastor we needed a little fire and brimstone to coax this baby out. It was an excellent sermon, but alas it didn't induce labor. I went to get my nails done after church, and luckily, I had football to distract me all day. The Packers beat the Raiders. I went to bed that night convinced nothing would happen, and for the first time in about a week, I slept great.

I woke up on Monday, December 21st at 6:14 a.m. with what I would later identify as my first contraction. As a first-timer, I was convinced of two things - 1) first time labors often start with false alarms and 2) they last forever. I thought I was maybe having contractions, but at 8 days past due, I was so uncomfortable, it was hard to tell the difference. I lay in bed casually timing them on my phone by writing down the frequency in my notes app - it was highly sophisticated...who needs contraction apps?! These strange pains were anywhere from 10-13 minutes apart and I was in total denial. I thought it was early labor (it was) and that it would probably go on for several hours (it didn't).

Around 8:00 a.m. Jon woke up and told me he had a dream that I was in labor. Apparently, it was so vivid it caused him to not sleep well that night. I had the great pleasure of telling him it might be a premonition because I thought I was *maybe* having contractions. Jon jumped into action and began timing them with the app on his phone. We ate breakfast (an English muffin with peanut butter for me) and lay in bed watching HGTV. We called our doula at 9:30 a.m. to let her know we were in early labor. I also sent an email to work telling them I wouldn't be on our weekly staff call that morning.

By 10:00 a.m. the contractions were about 5 minutes apart, but they were still completely manageable. We took a break from timing around 11:15 and decided to go downstairs for a change of scenery. Jon started to do a few things around the house to get ready to head to the hospital. At this point, I still thought I was probably hours and hours away from delivery. At 12:06 we started timing again and things definitely picked up, but the pattern fluctuated anywhere from 5 to 2 minutes apart. At 12:15 we called the doula and she advised us to wait until they were consistently 60 seconds long and 3 minutes apart before heading to the hospital. It didn't take long to get there. By 12:40 they were consistently less than 3 minutes apart. Around 12:55 Jon called the midwives. They told him it was time to come in.

In the back of my mind, I was still concerned we were heading to the hospital too soon. Everyone had preached to me about staying home as long as possible, so I was determined to do just that. I knew that going in too soon could potentially slow down labor, and I also knew that I would be more comfortable at home than at the hospital. They weren't pleasant, but I was still dealing with the contractions pretty well. I thought I could make it a little longer, but at 1:15 my water broke. I was sitting on our white couch, but I hopped off just in time. Yes, my water broke on the hardwood floors of our living room. I'll understand if you never want to come visit my house again.

This is when labor got real for me. We frantically rushed out the door to the car. Jon told the doula to meet us at the hospital.

The car ride to the hospital was torture. Water breaking = more painful contractions. I sat in the back seat spending some of the ride on my hands and knees leaning over the car seat. Jon tells me he ran two red lights. Since we were arriving during daytime hours, valet parking was an option. Yes, please. We waited until the end of a contraction before I got out of the car. I walked right past the security guard who didn't dare stop me and into the elevator to head up to the 3rd floor. A lady in the elevator asked if I was ok, to which I responded, "I'm fine, just having a baby." It's funny the things you remember...and the things you don't. But I vividly remember that a guy riding the elevator got out before me once we reached our floor. I remember thinking even in that moment how rude that was. If there was EVER a time to let a lady exit the elevator first, it would be when she is in labor.

I made a bee-line for the chair next to the check-in desk. We had pre-registered, but there was still a little paperwork to be done. I vaguely remember having a contraction and probably making some very awkward noises in a very public space. While we were checking in, our doula Cara arrived, and I was so relieved to see her. It felt like an eternity, but after a couple of minutes, the nurse came to take me back and I immediately hated her. She asked if I was having a baby today and mentioned something about taking me to triage instead of a labor & delivery room. I thought she was joking and/or trying to be sarcastic, but looking back on it, both Jon and I think she was serious. She seemed skeptical that a first-timer like me was in active labor. Maybe I looked too calm, I don't know? Jon and the doula totally stuck up for me and reminded her that they wouldn't have told us to come in to hang out in triage. We were ushered into labor and delivery room #9. Luckily we ditched this check-in nurse right away and were assigned a team of two nurses who were wonderful. I don't remember their names, but they were great. They stayed with me the entire time. Their shift ended just before Charlie was born (don't worry, they were replaced with two equally awesome nurses), but they both came back for a few minutes on their own time because they wanted to be there for the big moment of his birth.

I tried to make myself as comfortable as possible while they checked vitals, put in my saline lock, etc. The midwives on call that day were Hannah and Alice, both of whom I had met before and really liked. I found out later that Hannah delivered 3 babies between the time I checked in and Charlie was born! She was in and out more often, but Alice stayed with me the entire time and was such a huge help. I had met her a couple of weeks earlier when they sent me for monitoring because my pulse was high. That whole ordeal was a waste of time, but now I'm so glad it gave me the opportunity to meet her before the big day.

Once we were settled in, Alice checked to see how much progress I had made. This was around 2:25 p.m. I was dilated 6 centimeters. Take that, skeptical check-in nurse. I was definitely in active labor. The next two hours are a blur as I went through the transition stage of labor. I didn't have to be constantly monitored so I was able to move around and continue working through the contractions however I felt most comfortable. We had brought a miniature lighted Christmas tree with us to the hospital and we also had an extensive Christmas music playlist we played in the background. I didn't notice them too much while I was in labor, but in the later stages between pushes, I did notice and maybe even managed to enjoy the music during my breaks. My biggest pain relief distraction was concentrating on keeping my jaw relaxed and breathing down. Whenever I tensed up the midwife and doula coached me to let go and "breath the baby down." Jon was also a champion birth coach. He jumped right in and encouraged me every step of the way. Between him and the doula, they made sure I was hydrated and kept cool wash cloths on my neck and forehead.

Luckily, we snagged one of three rooms with a birthing tub. I immediately wanted to get in, but it was a little too early and we also had to wait for the tub to be filled. Around 3:40 p.m., I started feeling the urge to bear down (lovely term, isn't it?). By 4:00 p.m., the tub was ready and I was so much happier to be in the water. Warm water is nature's best pain reliever. At 4:35 p.m., Alice checked my progress again and I was 9.5 centimeters. That was music to my ears - this baby was almost here...or so I thought.

A little after 5:00 p.m., I started pushing. Charlie Ford Hardin was born at 7:35 p.m. Math is hard, but I trust that you can deduce that I pushed for 2.5 hours. Remember earlier when I was still pregnant at 41 weeks and I thought this baby was never coming? That's exactly how I felt somewhere in the middle of the pushing stage. I voiced that fear a few times, but the amazing team of people around me kept encouraging me. The doula told me later that every time I voiced a doubt, my next round of pushing was my best yet. Apparently I was using reverse psychology on myself. Around 6:30 p.m. Jon got in the tub with me. He sat behind me and helped support my weight, which made things much more comfortable. He was such a good teammate, and I love that he was so involved in Charlie's birth.

I was making progress, but things were taking time. Near the end, Charlie's heart rate was staying a little high in between my urges to push. They were concerned I was getting a little too warm in the tub and that it was affecting Charlie. They told me after my next few pushes, I would probably need to get out of the tub if his heart rate stayed a little elevated. At this point, I was exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was waste energy getting out of the tub. That seemed like a mountain too high to climb. Also, the water was my pain relief lifeline, and I did not want to be without it. All I needed was that little threat. On my very next push, I basically went from 0 to 60 and Charlie was born. We like to joke that he already knows how to swim. I was able to reach down and help pull him up to my chest. Since Jon was behind me in the tub, he was able to be right there as Charlie was lifted up to us. It was 7:35 p.m. Charlie weighed 9 lbs and was 20.5 inches long.

Charlie was just perfect...all 9 lbs of him! It couldn't have been a more beautiful moment, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I was too enamored with our son to pay attention, but I learned after the fact that Charlie certainly didn't do me any favors. Besides being a big baby, he was posterior or sunny-side-up when he was born. Most babies are born face down, which is the easiest position to help the baby descend properly, but about 5% of babies arrive face up. On top of that, Charlie also didn't bother to tuck his head at all. To put it bluntly, I couldn't possibly have birthed more of his head than I did. At one point early on, they mentioned he was a bald baby - turns out that was only because they were feeling his forehead. Charlie was, in fact, born with lots of red hair. I was extremely lucky. Posterior babies are usually responsible for intense back labor (I had none), prolonged labors (definitely not me) and are at a greater risk for complications or interventions (I had none). I firmly believe I have my chiropractor to thank for a complication-free posterior labor. The only drawback is that it did take more pushing to get him out, but the midwives also said 2+ hours of pushing is not uncommon for first-time labors. Not to mention the fact that a slow and gradual pushing effort was necessary for Charlie to arrive safe and sound.

I'm so grateful I was with a midwife practice that didn't panic or even bat an eyelash at Charlie's posterior position. They saw I was making progress and allowed me to continue laboring naturally. They didn't view it as a complication, and they were so encouraging and incredibly wise in not overtly telling me that he was posterior. They weren't hiding the fact, but they also didn't raise any red flags about it, and since I was busy trying to have a baby, I just never caught on to that tidbit. I probably would have seriously doubted myself if I had known, but luckily they never doubted me!

That first night in the hospital was so sweet. We got settled into our postpartum room and Jon fetched food for us (grilled cheese for me, burger for him). We were interrupted a few times for vitals checks, etc. but I don't think we would have slept anyway - we were on such a high. It's such an amazingly wonderful and overwhelming experience to become parents in the blink of an eye. Jon snuggled up in the hospital bed with me and we talked about what an amazing day it had been. I just wanted to lay there and feel all the feels for as long as possible. I couldn't love both of my boys more than I do.

Approx. 10 minutes after Charlie's birth. He obviously looks thrilled to be an outside baby. 
One proud papa. Everyone Says he looks like his dad.


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